The first trials in the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison will take place May 19 as one soldier implicated in the abuse will stand court martial.
The things that have been coming out of that prison are beyond disgusting. I’m not one to argue against psychological coercion if it means saving lives, but the kind of sick things that went on at Abu Ghraib are beyond reprehensible. Torturing Iraq prisoners in a former Ba’athist torture cell has brought shame to this country and the military – and those kind of actions should result in the individuals involved breaking rocks at Ft. Leavenworth for the rest of their lives. Personally, I’d go so far as to consider the firing squad for some of them. They knew what they were doing and they should have considered the ramifications of their actions. There is no excuse for such gross breaches of acceptable conduct for members of the US military.
It is less clear how high up the chain of command this scandal goes. Certainly the commanding general deserves to be sent to Leavenworth for her actions. However, blaming Rumsfeld for these actions is counterproductive. While Rumsfeld knew of some problems at Abu Ghraib and ordered an investigation, it is disingenious at best in the absence of any clear proof that he knew anything. Such calls are motivated by partisan politics, and having Rumsfeld fall on his sword would have no effect on the war or the effort to deal with this situation other than to make them both more difficult.
What’s truly interesting is the reaction of the Arabs to all of this. They appear to be perhaps strangely unconcerned about the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Then again, the Iraqis have seen much worse under Saddam. And unlike Saddam, we’re taking action against those responsible.
As horrible as these crimes are, I have a feeling that the difference in reaction between what Saddam did to his torturers (give them medals, promotions, and money) and what we do to ours (send them to jail and make them national symbols of shame) may be far more instructive to the Iraqi people than many of those looking from the outside in would think.